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Avodah

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Civil Rights, Social Action & Advocacy, Economic Development, Judaism, Leadership Development, Religion

Mission: Avodah strengthens the Jewish community’s fight against the causes and effects of poverty in the United States. We do this by engaging participants in service and community building that inspire them to become lifelong leaders for social change whose work for justice is rooted in and nourished by Jewish values.

Results: For 20 years, we’ve been inspiring Jewish leaders to commit to a life of social change, promoting a vision of Jewish life rooted in justice, and engaging the broader Jewish community in some of the most pressing issues facing our country at a local and national level. Avodah has more than 1,000 alumni and has contributed more than 1.9 million hours of service to local anti-poverty organizations around the country. We have partnered with more than 200 of the top non-profit organizations, serving nearly 715,000 people in need. In our 20 years of service, we have provided local organizations with nearly $2 million in staff capacity and engaged more than 18,000 people across the nation in the work for social and economic change.

Target demographics: Avodah works to build the next generation of Jewish leaders to address the country's most pressing social and economic issues.

Direct beneficiaries per year: Last year, we directly served 50,000 people in need and provided $2 million in staff capacity to local anti-poverty nonprofits throughout the country.

Geographic areas served: New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Kansas City

Programs: Avodah's programs include The Jewish Service Corps, a year of full-time service for Jewish adults ages 21-26 at leading nonprofits in Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and Washington, DC. Service Corps Members work in leading anti-poverty organizations, live together as a community, and participate in weekly educational programs to deepen their understanding of domestic poverty and explore their work through the lend of Jewish tradition and values; the Avodah Justice Fellowship, which convenes cohorts of early-career professionals for nine months of intensive learning, mentorship, and community building around social justice work through an inclusive Jewish lens in New York City, Chicago, and Kansas City; the Avodah Alumni Network, in which Avodah alumni are leading organizations, educating Jewish communities on the issues that matter, advocating for change on a local and national level. We support Avodah alumni through ongoing programming, engagement, and advanced skill-building; and Community Engagement programming, in which Avodah partners with organizations and educators in order to deepen our collective learning and draw the broader Jewish community into the most pressing social and economic issues of our time.

Community Stories

98 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Avodah is an amazing organization! The social justice fellowship in NYC was very powerful and impactful. The organization is welcoming, inclusive and works hard to fight for social justice on many different levels. I’m so glad I joined!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Avodah expands the work of so many important organizations through its corps member program, and it offers young adults a unique opportunity to step into the world of justice. As a board member and supporter of Avodah, I see many of our corps members profoundly affected by their year of service. They are often able to use it as a platform for their own career development and as the beginning to their lifelong commitment to changing a corner of the world.

Donor

Rating: 5

I participated in Avodah's inaugural year in New Orleans from 2008-2009 and I owe so much of my journey since then to my experience that year. Avodah helped me explore my personal Judaism, and it set me on a path for work in the Jewish community. I love this organization and will continue to support it as a monthly/recurring donor.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I participated in Avodah in DC and I owe my career to it. Avodah gave me the opportunity to explore non profits in a way that I could have never imagined. It gave me the skills and start that I needed right out of college. I also am grateful for the network and support that I find in alumni across the country.

Rebecca S.3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am an alum of this organization's service program and also a former board member. That is one of the many reasons why I love them -- they put young people who are at the heart of the mission in a decision-making role. I continue to volunteer with Avodah on their Development Committee so I see firsthand how carefully they steward resources and how much they cherish their donors. It's been about 15 years since I 'graduated' from my year of service with Avodah and I'm still devoted to Judaism and social justice, and this organization is a huge part of that.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am committed to the work of Avodah as a Board member and funder because it provides a critical connection for emerging Jewish professionals through the sacred work of social justice.

Previous Stories
2

Board Member

Rating: 5

For over forty years I served as a professional Jewish educator in Kansas City, from congregational educational director to Director of Engagement and Leadership Development for the Jewish Fedeation. I was always focused on finding ways to connect members of the Jewish community with their Judaism through a variety of opportunities. In an era when our traditional Jewish institutions don't always resonate for everyone, organizations like Avodah provide a meaningful connection for the fellows, leadership and philanthropists who are interested in supporting social Justice through a Jewish lens. I am proud to serve on the Avodah board and support our local and national effort.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have interacted with Avodah corps members past 10 years. They are passionate, curious, and dedicated. They are intent upon using their Avodah year to learn lifelong skills which they will use to promote and fight for social justice as social workers, medical professionals , legal professionals, rabbis, teachers, non-profit professionals, etc. Avodah is transformative for participants, and most remain in the social justice field throughout their careers.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Avodah harnesses the idealism and passion of young people and directs that to serving communities in need. It is social justice in action, through a Jewish lens. The organization itself is so well run, led by inspired staff and volunteers who ensure that the young people can make as great an impact on the people they serve and that the experience is transfomative for themselves. The very great majority of Avodah alumni continue to work in social justice fields.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

An incredible organization that uses all of its resources and creativity to strengthen and improve communities.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I know two young women who participated in Avodah after college. One was my daughter and the other a friend's daughter. They both gained a lot from the experience, the love of non-profit work and the importance of social justice work. They learned that the ideals taught in school are impactful when applied to real people and real-life situations. Both of these young women have gone on to help others in their quest for economic fairness and justice in the world. The experience wasn't, as one person suggested, a way of feeling good about themselves. It was a way of feeling good about others, of learning to care and respect other people, and to be positive. Neither myself nor my friend financially supported our daughters when they were in this program. I'm sorry that one of the reviewers walked away with bitterness.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I served in the Service Corps in D.C. in 2013-2014 and currently serve on the New York Advisory Council. Avodah was a transformative experience, helping me shape abstract social justice values into a career path. Four years later, I am approaching law school graduation, and following a clerkship, I intend to return to providing civil legal services to people living in poverty–a field I knew nothing about before Avodah placed me in one of the greatest legal services organizations in the country. Since leaving Avodah, I have been continually impressed with Avodah's commitment to improving and growing. The alumni community is one of the best resources I have in serving clients, and I'm proud to be an Avodah alum and supporter.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I participated in this program over a decade ago and the experience helped me in my post-college transition, obtaining full-time employment at the conclusion of the year of service, and has made me a part of a powerful network of alumni. They are doing critical work that benefits communities and those who participate in the program.

Previous Stories
2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH is a year long service program, similar to Americorps. The experience that I gained in this program strengthened my knowledge of the field I currently work in and strengthened my commitment and passion to social justice. The friends I made while in AVODAH, have been a source of support and encouragement to me.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Avodah helped me create a Jewish social justice community post college and kick-started my career in the non-profit sector.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've been a fan of Avodah since it's inception and been involved as a volunteer since 2010 in Washington, DC. What moves me most about Avodah is watching young Jewish leaders engage in social justice in their local communities, all while part of a communal Jewish framework. This experience becomes a defining one for their lives, impacting future decisions about how to live their lives and how they will contribute to society. I always joke that I wish Avodah had existed when I was a graduating college student so I could have been a part of it. Now I wish that my kids will want to do it when they are old enough!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was an Avodah corps member back in 2010 in Chicago and the organization had a transformational impact on my life. The year-long service program opened new professional doors for me, leading me to a meaningful career in refugee and international human rights programming. I made some of my best friends through Avodah and continue to draw on the support of its community for both spiritual and social sustenance. The alumni network Avodah has produced is unparalleled in terms of its members' ongoing commitment to social justice, activism, and social and spiritual engagement.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

My son, who was involved in several Jewish and secular social justice organizations in high school and college, was a corp member in the year after he graduated from college. AVODAH was, by far, the most important experience in shaping who he is as an adult. His outlook on life and his choice of careers were shaped by his experience with AVODAH. He has gained lifelong friends and built a national network of contacts who have been invaluable. I would promote this program for any young Jewish adult.

1

Advisor

Rating: 5

Avodah does such incredible work for both the fellows and the community. The experiences that each young person gets with the organization is empowering and the work they do in service of the community around them enriches all they touch.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

As an AVODAH Service Corps Member from 2002 through 2003, I had the opportunity to live communally with other Jewish recent college graduates, dive into the connection between Judaism and Social Justice, and work full time at a local non-profit. Together we created and participated in programs designed to deepen our connection and understanding of Judaism and Social Justice. Following my year of Service, Avodah connected me to an ever growing community of committed alumni. Over 15 years later, I still look to the alumni community with any and all of my Jewish/Social Justice questions. I feel lucky to be a part of this community.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I was a member of the Avodah Service Corps in Chicago in 2008-09; as a recent college graduate the Service Corps provided an incredible opportunity to work full time while receiving significant support and training from Avodah. My year in Avodah has shaped my professional and personal journey; I continue to revisit the lessons I learned and the experiences I gained on a regular basis. I'm now an active part of the alumni community - and a member of the Board - and continue to be grateful for the ways that the Avodah network shapes my life and helps fuel social change.

2 Angela B.3

Board Member

Rating: 5

I got to know Avodah first through its fellows, recent college graduates who felt that part of their Jewish identity included giving back to their communities through serious service work. I have since joined the board of Avodah and have only been more impressed with the organization and its partnership with anti-poverty organizations and the young fellows who do the work. This is an organization worth supporting--your money not only helps to fund anti-poverty work in some of the most distressed urban centers, but it also supports a generation of young Jewish leaders who go on to serve their communities in different ways throughout their lives. Avodah is transformative!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Avodah for over 10 years and have been profoundly impacted by the organization. As a participant in Avodah's service corps, I had the opportunity to learn all about Judaism and social justice. I did the service corps in Chicago and my year in Avodah gave me authentic insight in the social justice community and work happening in Chicago. After completing my service corps year in Chicago, I continued to stay involved with the Alumni community and network in Chicago. Through this network, I am regularly invited to engage in learning and actions related to both local and national social justice issues. Additionally, Avodah has given me a Jewish home. The Avodah Alumni network has provided me with a Jewish community who I can spend holidays with and celebrate life milestones with. When I joined Avodah in 2006, I had no idea that the organization and program would so profoundly shape my adult life. I am so grateful for the ways Avodah built me as a Jewish leader of social justice-- and the ways in which Avodah does this for so many others.

Review from Guidestar

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

I had the distinct privilege of being involved with Avodah as a participant in the NYC fellowship, which equipped me with tools and insights to be more impactful and find more meaning in my job in public health. Shortly after the program ended, I took part in a women's leadership coaching program through Avodah with other alumnae, which played a powerful role in helping me chart a career path that feels inspiring and motivating. Today, I'm a proud board member of the organization, and the relationships I've built through my involvement with Avodah form the heart of my Jewish community. The Avodah community helps me see myself as a powerful agent of change, pushes me to think critically about the impact I have and can have in the world, and is a constant source of inspiration and joy.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 1

Avodah is structured so that only individuals with privileged backgrounds can succeed in their position. It is basically set up as a year for recent college grads to feel good about themselves while they continue to take money from their parents. For those who participate for different reasons and don't have a safety net, they cannot live off the stipend and keep up with the house social scene leading to burn out due to the onerous work, high demands, poor social support, and no financial pay off. Worse it's represented as something it's not. I'm three years out and still look back at the experience as a waste of time and a poor use of my skills.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 1

AVODAH is by far the most ableist and financial inaccessible "volunteer" experience I've ever had. I had to resign from my position early fpr health related reasons, and the organization promptly kicked me out of my house with two weeks until my next lease started, one day notice (against DC tenant law) and nowhere to go. This was against the expressed wishes of my fellow corps members (whose needs, I think, should be the organization's top priority) and while still mandating that I pay rent for the next three months (after working for a year under the minimum wage and while struggling to cover medical expenses). I am both shocked and disappointed that AVODAH-- as an organization that prizes itself being equitable and social justice oriented -- has no clause in its contract acknowledging mental/ physical disabilities as potential barriers to completion of serve. Throughout my departure process, I was made to feel like my situation was in some way my fault, and was made to compensate AVODAH financially for making a decision that my doctor recommended. I find it hard to fathom that I am now in debt to an organization which I was working for in a stipended position, after leaving for a health issue that I already hold much shame in. As one of the few corp members without the buffer of family support to fall back on, I was constantly made to feel like I was asking for special privileges for not being able to manage the 60+ hours of commitment per week that AVODAH expects from it's corp members (with site placements, programming, house meetings, mandatory community activities, etc), while balancing outside responsibilities that none of the other corps members had. No wonder the organization primarily attracts volunteers from certain socio-economic and familial backgrounds! I loved my corps members and respect my program director and her intentions, but feel strongly that the structure of the program is completely inaccessible to folks who don't identify with certain brands of Judaism and/ or have needs that fall outside the "norm". I therefore couldn't in good faith recommend it to anyone strongly committed to grassroots social justice work.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a AVODAH corps member, I spent a year living in a communal house and working in a local nonprofit. The AVODAH program and staff were very supportive around the communal living stuff and work stuff, did not push me Jewishly as much as I had hoped.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Through AVODAH I had an incredible year working with low-income seniors in New York City. I was part social worker, part pharmacist, and part advocate on behalf of hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries, and my work during AVODAH led me to attend law school. In addition to being the spark that I hope will develop into a rewarding public interest legal career, I made some incredible friends throughout the year - people who have supported me through tough times and celebrated with me in the good times.

1

Former Volunteer

Rating: 5

A truly meaningful, life-changing experience. I became more aware of the world I live in while also learning about myself. I met amazing people and connected to a community that inspires and accomplishes incredible things.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH is amazing! It provides young Jews with an opportunity to expand their Jewish sense of identity at time when we are unstable with who we are and where we stand in the world. An instant community of Jews and like minded individuals are basically served to us on a golden platter, as well as real world experience serving people and communities that are important to us.

1

Former Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience with Avodah has been transformative. It has changed my vision of the world and how Judaism and social justice are important in my own life.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Housing Unlimited, Inc. (HUI) is fortunate to have an Avodah participant-- Joshua Neirman-- work full-time this year with HUI. Josh has been an outstanding addition to our staff-- he cares deeply about our mission (HUI provides affordable housing to low income adults with psychiatric disabilities), he is very kind and respectful towards the people we serve, and he is a true team player-- happy to chip in with the large and small tasks that must be completed to keep HUI up and running. The Avodah supervisory staff is very organized and communicate regularly and clearly with HUI to ensure everything is going smoothly.

2

Client Served

Rating: 4

I have been receiving AVODAH volunteers to help run our legal clinic for seven years. They have been outstanding workers and friends. The quality of people AVODAH gets each year to donate their time to helping the poor with our and other organizations is incredible. AVODAH not only instills a strong sense of Jewish tradition and values in its members, it provides crucial services to this country's poor.

1

Former Volunteer

Rating: 5

The reason for my ongoing involvement with Avodah is because my participation in this program has helped to amplify multiple songs in my soul and set them into powerful harmony. The song of Jewish community and intentional relationships. The song of social action. The song of taking up the fight against injustice. And the song of doing what’s right, of doing what’s human. I sing these songs loudly now, and with others who know the tune, the words, … the meaning.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As an AVODAH Corps Member, I had the opportunity to live together with other Jewish young adults, exploring together the connection between Judaism and Social Justice, and working full time at a non-profit. We had very meaningful workshops weekly covering topics from housing, to racism, to mental health. It also gave me the opportunity to explore my Jewish traditions and learn about others'. AVODAH was a positive step to get into the world of non-profit. After my year in AVODAH my organization offered me a full time position and I am still employed there. I still actively engage with AVODAH, interacting with new corps members as well as alumni.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH provided exposure, experience, and support in the social service world, all within a Jewish, social justice framework. My positive experience was a major factor in my decision to pursue an MSW/MPH degree.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AVODAH is an amazing program (!) which provides Jewish individuals an experience to learn about social justice within the context of a Jewish framework. For me it was a year of meeting passionate individuals, who work towards the issues they believe in. AVODAH provides young college graduates with an experience of working with various marginalized populations. It is a year of growth and learning. It was a very important year in my life and in my growth of learning and understanding what I value and what is important for me to work towards.